Sunday, May 23, 2021

Marawi siege marks 4th year anniversary

 From Rappler (May 22, 2021): Marawi siege marks 4th year anniversary (By JAIRO BOLLEDO)

The master plan for the rehabilitation is now 60% completed, says Task Force Bangon Marawi

The nightmare that Marawi City residents have gone through in the hands of armed groups marked its fourth anniversary on May 23.

The predominantly Muslim city has faced challenges in rehabilitating the battle area, as well as in fighting the recruitment of armed groups among its residents.

What now?

A few days before the anniversary, a housing provider announced that close to 500 houses for families displaced by the conflict have been built.

Holcim Philippines said that a total of 491 out of 1,057 housing units have already been built by the end of April 2021. The project was spearheaded by the United Nations Human Settlement Program (UN-Habitat), together with Holcim and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).


The day Marawi died

Meanwhile, for the casualties of war buried in Marawi, only four out of 470 bodies have been identified. The Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory Region 10 said that they are still looking for families to come forward so they can match their DNA with that of the bodies.

With regard to rehabilitation, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Secretary and Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) head Eduardo Del Rosario said in a report by the Philippine News Agency that the master development plan for the rehabilitation was already 60% completed.

Del Rosario added that the road networks are set to be finished by the end of September 2021.

A six-month nightmare

On May 23, 2017, the military launched a raid to arrest Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Isnilon Hapilon who was spotted in a safe house in Basak Malutlut in Marawi City. However, the military troops unsuccessfully arrested Hapilon and were instead met with gunfire.

Residents in black clothes marched down the streets with firearms and started waving ISIS (Islamic State) flags. They occupied strategic points in the city, which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare Martial Law in the entire Mindanao.

The war displaced 400,000 people in Marawi City and nearby areas. Some stayed in evacuation centers, while other stayed with their relatives in safer areas.

After six months of non-stop fighting, the government announced the deaths of Hapilon and another mind behind the war, Omar Maute.

On October 23, 2017, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the military already neutralized the remaining ISIS fighters – the war was over. 

 (READ: The war in Marawi: 153 days and more

Marawi hardships, slow rehab may breed future terror group – former Lanao official

From Rappler (May 23, 2021): Marawi hardships, slow rehab may breed future terror group – former Lanao official (By HERBIE GOMEZ)

Sarapida Pacasum Jr. warns about a new group of terrorists that he said could rise 'in a year or two' because Maranaos were getting angry

The difficulties thousands of Maranaos have been going through in the last four years, and the government's failure to fulfill its promises, are causing unrest and could breed future terrorists, a former Lanao official said.

"People are hungry and hurting. The conditions are really bad. This is the perfect formula to create a new terror group," Sarapida Pacasum Jr. said over DxIF-Bombo Radyo on Sunday, May 23, the fourth anniversary of the start of the Marawi siege.

Pacasum was the leader of a Lanao del Sur provincial capitol team that launched a rescue mission during the first days of the siege in 2017.

On ANC's Dateline Philippines on Saturday, May 22, another Maranao leader, Norodin Alonto Lucman, warned about the thousands of loose firearms in the Lanao area.

"What if people started using these against the government?" he asked.


Many Maranaos with missing kin dread 'Maute' tag 4 years after Marawi siege

Lucman, a former deputy governor of the Muslim autonomous region, said the government failed in meeting its self-imposed deadlines to rebuild Marawi.

"I think the next administration will inherit a big, big problem," Lucman told ANC. "I hope the next president will be adequately briefed" so government could address the problem in Marawi.

Pacasum, himself among the internally displaced living in temporary shelters, said nothing much has changed in Marawi City since the 2017 fightings.

"It's still the same, and the rehabilitation efforts are very slow," he said. Pacasum had also headed the provincial disaster risk reduction management office in 2017.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the situation in areas where government set up temporary shelters.

"Neighbors are fighting each other because of stress. It's taking a toll on their mental health," he said. "They lost their homes and livelihood, and until now, all they have are temporary shelters."

Pacasum warned about a new group of terrorists that he said could rise "in a year or two" because Maranaos were getting angry.

"Those who live in temporary shelters, for instance, were promised a water system a year ago. Hanggang ngayon wala pa (It's still not there). I am not happy with what I'm seeing. The longer it takes, the more problems will arise," he said.

"There's no water system in place. There's no electricity. The electric poles are not even there," said Lucman.

What's worse, Lucman added, was the government's position to prevent Maranaos from returning and rebuilding from the 2017 ruins of Marawi.


Buildings rise 4 years after Marawi siege, but few residents allowed back

"They were offended.... The Maranao IDPs (internally displaced people) can rebuild on their own. They do not need government support to do that," Lucman said.

On his Facebook account on Sunday, May 23, Lucman shared a post from 2019, written on the siege's second anniversary: "Marawi burned on this day...undefended and helpless and whatever honor and dignity is left was taken away by the people who caused its destruction. Ranao (Lanao) will never see the light of day for a long time to come unless God forgives us and leads us to greater Jihad."

Mindanao peace advocate and priest Eliseo Mercado Jr. dies

From Rappler (May 23, 2021): Mindanao peace advocate and priest Eliseo Mercado Jr. dies (By FROILAN GALLARDO)

Father Eliseo Mercado Jr. was a major figure in the peace process in Mindanao

Prominent Mindanao peace advocate Father Eliseo "Jun" Mercado Jr. succumbed to complications from COVID-19 at a hospital in Cotabato City on Sunday afternoon, May 23. He was 73.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate of the Philippines (OMI Philippines) said Mercado died at 3:25 pm at the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing away of one of our giants, Father Eliseo 'Jun' de la Rosa Mercado Jr., due to heart attack,” OMI Philippines said in a statement.

The missionary congregation said Mercado was admitted to the hospital on May 8 after he tested positive for COVID-19.

"For several days and weeks, he fought successfully against the virus and its symptoms. Things seemed to go well," OMI Philippines said.

Mercado initially recovered and his RT-PCR test came out negative on May 22. He was transferred to the intensive care unit of the hospital to complete his recovery when he suffered a heart attack.

Mercado, the senior policy adviser of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, was a major figure in the peace process in Mindanao.

A former president of the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City, Mercado also played a role in brokering a ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the 2000 "all-out war" launched by the Estrada administration in Mindanao.

NPA supporters pledge allegiance to gov’t: 79IB

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 22, 2021): NPA supporters pledge allegiance to gov’t: 79IB (BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Former NPA supporters burn a CPP-NPA flag during a condemnation rally in Calatrava, Negros Occidental Wednesday* PA photo

The Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion reported that 35 victims of New People’s Army exploitation in Brgy. Minapasuk, Calatrava, Negros Occidental, staged a condemnation rally in the barangay on Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Gerard Alvaran, 79IB commander, said the 35 villagers, who used to be rebel supporters, affirmed their allegiance to the government, and burned CPP-NPA flags, as a sign of their withdrawal of support to the communist movement.

Marianne Lumanog, who represented Calatrava Mayor Marilyn Era, thanked the 79IB, Philippine National Police, and other partner agencies for bringing peace to the town.

Lumanog also urged Minapasuk barangay residents to stand against the evils of insurgents, adding that the municipal government already made a stand and declared the CPP-NPA-NDF as persona non grata.

Alvaran said the victims of rebel exploitation have awakened from the deceptive approach and extortion activities of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Their commitment to withdraw support from the armed group is already a bold step towards total eradication of insurgency, he added.

8 Sayyaf terrorists yield in Sulu

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 22, 2021): 8 Sayyaf terrorists yield in Sulu

Eight Abu Sayyaf terrorists surrendered to the military in the southern Philippine province of Sulu with security officials promising them livelihood aid as the government continues its effort to lure members of the dreaded pro-ISIS group to return to the fold of the law.

A military photo shows the surrendered Abu Sayyaf terrorists - their faces blurred - posing with security officials in Sulu province.

Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of the 11th Infantry Division, said the terrorists surrendered voluntarily on Thursday to the 11o1st Infantry Brigade headed by Brig. Gen. Antonio Bautista. But it was only announced on Saturday for a still unknown reason.

Bautista identified the terrorists as Padding Padjiri, Ibrahim Jul Uppih, Yasser, Abraham Alawara, Adzar Karun, Dansalan Jumadil, Sahadani Murani, and Bulli Barri. He said their surrender was facilitated by members of the 2nd Special Forces, the 15th Civil Military Operations Battalion and the 100th Infantry Battalion.

Gonzales assured the terrorists that they will get the assistance that they need for them to start a new life with their family. “Napakalaki ng potential ng probinsyang ito. Kung dati halos hindi maaninaw ang kapayapaan, ngayon ay abot tanaw na. It’s just a matter of time, kung gaano tayo kabilis makakarating doon. Itong initiative niyo na magbalik loob, isa ito sa nakakapag-pabilis na makarating ang Sulu sa inaasam na kapayapaan. Kasama rin kayo sa magandang hinaharap na iyon,” he said.

The terrorists also surrendered three rifles and two pistols.

One of those who surrendered, Uppih, said he was contacted by a former Abu Sayyaf fighter - Darius - who now works as a government militia and convinced him to yield.

The 24-year old Uppih, who joined the Abu Sayyaf in 2014, was hiding in Tawi-Tawi province with his wife and 3 children after escaping military operations in Sulu, and decided to return home and surrender peacefully. “Noong panahon kasi na ‘yun tambay lang ako. Tapos sabi ng pinsan ko sumama ako sa kanya sa Abu Sayyaf para kumita ng pera. Paminsan-minsan lang naman kami naabutan, pero grabe ang paghihirap ko doon,” he told army interrogators.

Uppih said he took part in several armed clashes with security forces and even guarded kidnap victims of the Abu Sayyaf while in Sulu. While in Tawi-Tawi, Uppih said he planted bananas to be able to feed his family, but admitted living in fear.

“Noong nakabalik na ako rito (sa Sulu), grabe ang kabog ng dibdib ko kasi natatakot pa rin ako hangga’t di ako pormal na naka-surrender. Ngayon nandito na ako at Division Commander (Gonzales) mismo ang kaharap namin, makakahinga na talaga ako ng maluwag,” he said.

Tens of dozens of Abu Sayyaf have surrendered to the military in Sulu over the past years in exchange for livelihood aid and a chance to live peacefully with their loved ones, although operations against the notorious secessionist group still continue in the province where foreign ISIS soldiers are believed to be fighting alongside their local counterpart. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tagalog News: Apat na TIKAS projects, pinasinayaan sa Fort Magsaysay

Posted to the Philippine Information Agency (May 22. 2021): Tagalog News: Apat na TIKAS projects, pinasinayaan sa Fort Magsaysay (By Camille C. Nagaño)

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija, Mayo 22 (PIA) -- Pinasinayaan na ang apat na proyekto sa ilalim ng TIKAS o Tatag ng Imprastraktura para sa Kapayapaan at Seguridad Program sa loob ng Fort Magsaysay sa Nueva Ecija.

Ayon kay Public Works and Highways o DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, ang TIKAS ay ideya mismo ni Pangulong Duterte na layong makatulong at maiparamdam ang suporta ng pamahalaang nasyonal sa Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Aniya, ngayon lamang nagkaroon ng ganitong programa para sa mga kawal ng bansa na pinagtutulungang pangasiwaan ng DPWH at Department of National Defense o DND.

Pahayag ng kalihim, kung tutuusin ay kulang pa itong mga proyektong pang-imprastraktura kung ikukumpara sa sakripisyo at serbisyo na ibinibigay ng mga kasundaluhan para sa bayan.

Ayon pa kay Villar, kinakailangang masiguro naman na mayroong sapat na pasilidad ang mga kasundaluhan na kanilang magagamit sa pagtupad ng tungkulin.

Kabilang sa mga pormal nang binuksang proyekto sa loob ng kampo ay ang bagong headquarters ng 7th Infantry Division na kinapapalooban ng Tactical Operation Center na ang kabuuang halaga ay umabot sa humigit 41.4 milyong piso.

Kasabay ding pinasinayaan ang apat na palapag na Transient Facility ng Light Reaction Regiment na may halagang 39.2 milyong piso gayundin ang dalawang palapag na Enlisted Personnel Barracks na magagamit ng mga kawal na nakatalaga sa Special Forces Regiment (Airborne).


Pinangasiwaan mismo nina Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar (kaliwa) at Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (kanan) ang apat na malalaking proyekto ng TIKAS o Tatag ng Imprastraktura para sa Kapayapaan at Seguridad Program sa loob ng Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija. (DPWH)

Natapos na din ang 7.261 kilometrong concrete road na nagkakahalagang 81.2 milyong piso para sa mas madaling pagbyahe ng mga kagamitan papasok at palabas ng kampo.

Paglilinaw ni Villar, ang mga proyektong isinusulong sa ilalim ng TIKAS Program ay hiniling ng mga kampo batay sa kanilang pangangailangan.

Sa naging mensahe naman ni DND Delfin Lorenzana ay kanyang sinabi na malaking tulong ang mga ipinatayong imprastraktura upang lalong tumaas ang moral ng mga kasundaluhan sa pagtupad ng sinumpaang tungkulin.

Kanyang ipinaaabot ang pasasalamat sa Pangulo na may maiiwang pamana sa Philippine Army na tiyak ay mapakikinabangan ng mga susunod na henerasyon gayundin ang pasasalamat sa DPWH na katuwang mula sa pag-paplano, pagpopondo at pagpapatayo ng mga nasabing proyekto.

Pahayag ni Lorenzana, ay patuloy na maaasahan ang suporta at pagbabantay ng DND sa Build Build Build projects ng pamahalaan partikular mula sa mga rebeldeng grupo.

Ang paalala ng kalihim sa mga kasundaluhan ay pangalagaan ang mga tinatanggap na mga bagong pasilidad upang mapakinabangan nang mahabang panahon. (CLJD/CCN-PIA 3)

2 conflict-affected barangays in Quirino receive P600,000 worth of aid from DOST, LGU, PNP

Posted to the Philippine Information Agency (May 21. 2021): 2 conflict-affected barangays in Quirino receive P600,000 worth of aid from DOST, LGU, PNP (By Thelma C. Bicarme)

CABARROGUIS, Quirino, May 21 (PIA)— Two barangays here that are identified as conflict-affected and geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs) received livelihood projects and potable water supply from the Department of Science and Technology Region 2 (DOST 2) thru the Provincial Science and Technology, Cabarroguis Police Station and the local government unit of Cabarroguis.

The DOST, has allocated fund amounting to P600,000.00 through its CEST Program (Community Empowerment through Science & Technology) to be released in full to barangay Calaocan and barangay Villarose to cover the expenses of "Community Retooled Program" (RSCP).

The projects aimed to address the root causes of insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions, armed conflicts, and threats through prioritization and delivery of its appropriate programs and services to the conflict-affected and GIDAS.

Barangay Calaocan will get P562,000.00 worth of projects. The biggest amount of P420,000.00 will come from DOST-02; P20,000.00 will come from LGU-Cabarroguis; P87,000.00 as a counterpart of the barangay and P35,000.00 from PNP-Cabarroguis.

For Barangay Villarose, a total of 305,000.00 livelihood projects has been allocated in the barangay, P180,000.00 will come from DOST-02, GIA-CEST; P 70,000.00 from LGU-Cabarroguis; P30,000.00 as barangay counterpart and P25,000.00 from PNP-Cabarroguis.

Prior to the awarding of the livelihood projects, the residents of the two barangays were consulted by the Cabarroguis PS personnel headed by Police Captain Fernando Manayod on the priority needs and immediately they recommended the identified priority needs for funding by the DOST Quirino thru Provincial Director Rocela Angelica Gorospe and the local government unit headed by Mayor Willard Abuan.

The provision of livelihood projects is in support to the operationalization and institutionalization of the Whole-Of-Nation Approach. Moreover, DOST 02 will assist on the project implementation by building empowerment and resilience in the threatened barangays by providing S&T assistance such as consultancy and technology trainings.

Another component of the project is the establishment of water sanitation, good health and nutrition, establishment of potable water system and feeding program in the community.

To ensure that the objectives of the project are attained, the DOST with PNP Cabarroguis will closely monitor the status and completion of the project. (MDCT/TCB/PIA 2-Quirino)

11 E-CLIP grantees in Ilocos Sur get Php1.4-M aid

Posted to the Philippine Information Agency (May 22. 2021): 11 E-CLIP grantees in Ilocos Sur get Php1.4-M aid (By Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog)

BANTAY, Ilocos Sur, May 22 (PIA) - - Two former regular members of the New People's Army (NPA) and nine former members of the Militia ng Bayan (MB) in Ilocos Sur were given financial assistance under the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in a ceremony held Thursday at Mel Sol’s Inn & Resort here.

Each of the recipients was awarded with Php15,000.00 immediate assistance, while additional Php50,000.00 livelihood assistance were awarded to regular NPA members and firearm remuneration to those with surrendered/turned-over firearms.

(L-R) 81st IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Rodrigo A. Mariñas, Jr., Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis V. Singson, DILG Provincial Director Randy S. Dela Rosa, and PLTCOL Simon G. Damolkis of the Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office award E-CLIP benefits to a former MB member in a ceremony held Thursday at Mel Sol’s Inn & Resort in Bantay, Ilocos Sur. (jmcq/pia)

Administered by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Ilocos Sur, reintegration assistance was also given to the 81st Infantry (SPARTAN) Battalion of the Philippine Army which is being used for the expenses of former rebels who have been placed under the protection of government troops while processing their other benefits under the E-CLIP.

A total of Php1.436 million was awarded to the beneficiaries who are the second batch of E-CLIP beneficiaries this year.

It can be recalled that the first batch, composed of 10 former MB members along with a former E-CLIP recipient, received their benefits last January 14.

The awarding ceremony was held during the one-day Peace Building and Former Rebels Organizational Summit which was participated by the said beneficiaries and some former members of Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) from various municipalities in the province.

One of the former regular NPA members received a total of Php165,000.00 because she was also provided with additional livelihood assistance worth Php50,000.00.

“Pagkatapos kong sumuko, iyong pakiramdam ko ay parang isang ibon na sa wakas ay nakawala sa matagal na pagkakakulong,” said one of the former NPA members who was with the armed groups for 11 years and surrendered to the government last 2019.

“Malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa tulong na naibigay sa akin at magagamit ko ito sa panimula ng kabuhayan kagaya ng pag-aalaga ng baboy. Kung nagtutuloy-tuloy ako sa kabundukan kasama ng mga NPA, wala akong matatanggap na ganitong tulong,” she said.

In his message, Governor Ryan Luis V. Singson thanked the efforts of the Army, various government agencies, and all local government units to fight insurgency in the province, and most especially the former NPA and UGMO members for surrendering and pledging allegiance to the government.

“Ito ang pinakamagandang bunga ng pagtutulungan ng iba't ibang sangay ng gobyerno, lokal man o nasyonal, malaki ang ginagawa natin upang mapuksa ang armed groups dito sa probinsya. Kaya sana, para sa inyo aming mga kababayan, magpatuloy ang ating pagsuporta sa gobyerno dahil mas nakikita at nararamdaman niyo na ngayon ang mga programa at tulong na ating ibinibigay,” said Governor Singson.

Aside from the assistance provided by the E-CLIP, Governor Singson gave cash assistance worth Php2,000.00 to each of the participants.

Likewise, 81st IB Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Rodrigo A. Mariñas, Jr. said that such milestone, along with the recent accomplishments of the Army in Ilocos Sur, are indications that the efforts of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) in the province are efficient to eventually end insurgency, thus, maintaining peace and order in the communist armed-affected communities.

“Unti-unti nang naliwanagan ang isip ng mga kababayan natin dito sa Ilocos Sur para tumulong at sumuporta sa atin sa ating kampanya upang matapos na itong insurgency dito sa probinsiya,” he said. (JCR/AMB/JMCQ, PIA Ilocos Sur)

Lorenzana hails proposed law to amend retirement age of AFP officials

Posted to the Philippine Information Agency (May 22. 2021): Lorenzana hails proposed law to amend retirement age of AFP officials (By Jimmyley E. Guzman)

Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana (PIA NCR file)

PASIG CITY, May 22 (PIA) -- Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana on Saturday expressed his strong support for the proposed legislation currently being deliberated in the Senate and House of Representatives, which will amend the retirement age of officers, set the tenure-in-grade of all military personnel and amend the percentage of general officers to the total AFP strength.

"The proposed law will streamline and stabilize the leadership, rank and organizational structure of the AFP," the Defense Chief said. He added that the measure will make the AFP a more efficient and effective organization.

Senate Bill 1785 filed by Sen. Dick Gordon and its companion bill in the House, HB 8056, filed by Rep. Boboy Tupaz, will raise the retirement age of officers to 60 and the Chief of Staff to 65. The retirement age of enlisted personnel will remain at 56.

The proposed law will also provide for a fixed tenure-in-grade for all ranks in the officer corps (Second Lieutenant to Colonel) and the enlisted corps and provide for a fixed tenure-in grade for general officers (Brigadier General to General). It will also establish a cap on the number of general officers to a ratio of one general officer for every 1,000 uniformed personnel.

"The law will ensure that officers stay in their positions long enough to effectively implement AFP programs and projects,” Lorenzana said. (PIA NCR)

Philippines, China convene mechanism to ease tensions, explore cooperation in South China Sea

Posted to the Philippine Information Agency (May 23. 2021): Philippines, China convene mechanism to ease tensions, explore cooperation in South China Sea (By DFA)

The 6th Philippines-China Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea was co-chaired by Acting Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Elizabeth P. Buensuceso (left) and Assistant Minister Wu Jianghao (right) on 21 May 2021. (DFA-OUBRAA photo)

After a long postponement, the Philippines and China convened the sixth meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea (BCM) virtually on 21 May 2021. This year’s meeting was hosted by the Philippines.

The BCM is a bilateral forum established by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and President Xi Jinping during their 2016 meeting. It was envisioned as a platform for dialogue on the expanding bilateral relationship between the Philippines and China. It has served as a confidence-building process for both sides to manage and address differences, to promote practical maritime cooperation and environmental protection, and to enhance mutual trust and confidence.

Foreign Affairs Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Elizabeth P. Buensuceso and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao led their respective delegations. The Philippine delegation included officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Security Council (NSC), Department of National Defense (DND), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Department of Justice DOJ), National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and other key agencies.

The two sides had friendly and candid exchanges on the general situation and specific issues of concern in the South China Sea. There was mutual recognition of the importance of dialogue in easing tensions and understanding each country’s position and intentions in the area. Both sides acknowledged the importance of addressing differences in an atmosphere of openness and cordiality to pave the way for practical cooperation and initiatives. The Philippines reiterated its long-standing call for full respect and adherence to international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its authoritative interpretation and application – the final and binding 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award.

The Philippines highlighted the progress made in the settlement of the Gem-Ver allision issue involving a Philippine fishing boat and a Chinese vessel. The Philippine Department of Justice will take the lead in seeking just compensation for the victims in negotiations to be held next month.

Encouraged by the positive momentum in the bilateral relations of the two countries, the three working groups of the BCM (political-security, fisheries cooperation, and marine environmental protection/marine scientific research) tackled common issues and possible areas of cooperation.

Undersecretary Buensuceso stressed the importance of other complementary bilateral and multilateral platforms in maintaining regional peace and stability such as the ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the East Asia Summit. Both sides reiterated the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and their commitment to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). The Philippines currently serves as Country Coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue mechanism. (DFA)

Lawless group leader nabbed in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22. 2021): Lawless group leader nabbed in Maguindanao (By Noel Punzalan)

ARRESTED. Suspected leader of a lawless armed group, Anayatin Duma, after his arrest by a combined military and police team at his hideout in Sitio Tangguapo, Barangay Damabalas, Datu Piang, Maguindanao on Friday (May 21, 2021). Duma is facing a string of frustrated murder and murder charges before a local court. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Military and police authorities have arrested the suspected leader of a lawless group long wanted for a string of murders in Maguindanao.

Col. Pedro Balisi Jr., commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said Saturday joint elements of the 6th Infantry Battalion, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group - Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (CIDG-BAR), and Datu Piang police arrested Anayatin Duma in Sitio Tangguapo, Barangay Damabalas, Datu Piang town.

“Duma is facing multiple frustrated murder and murder cases with criminal case no. 2003-018 without bail bond,” Balisi said.

Duma was also listed as one of the most wanted persons linked to local terrorist groups, under the joint orders on rewards of the Department of National Defense and Department of the Interior and Local Government, he added.

The suspect peacefully submitted himself to authorities after he was frisked and handcuffed at his hideout on Friday morning.

Maj. Gen. Juvymax R. Uy, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and head of the Joint Task Force Central, said Duma’s arrest would weaken the threats of criminality in Maguindanao.

“We will not let our guard down against these law offenders. We will continue to pursue them,” he said.

Elderly rebel cuts ties with NPA in Antique

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22. 2021): Elderly rebel cuts ties with NPA in Antique (By Perla Lena)

SURRENDERED. "Lito", 60, a former member of Northern Front-Komiteng Rehiyon Panay, surrenders to police in Sitio Canapay, Brgy. Caridad, Culasi, Antique on May 21, 2021. He will be endorsed to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program for assistance as he leads a normal life. (Photo courtesy of Culasi MPS)

The promise of a better and peaceful life convinced a 60-year-old member of the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) to surrender to government forces in Sitio Canapay, Brgy. Caridad, Culasi, Antique on Friday.

Lito (not his real name), of Sebaste town, was a member of Northern Front-Komiteng Rehiyon Panay.

The community support program (CSP) and other community-based programs and activities in line with Executive Order (EO) 70, the institutionalization of the Whole-of-Nation Approach through the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC), convinced the rebel to surrender, said Lt. Col. Joem J. Malong, Police Regional Office 6 spokesperson, on Saturday.

CSP is the military's primary tool in clearing the barangays of communists' influence while EO 70 aims to address the root causes of insurgency to end local armed conflict in the countryside.

Lito voluntarily yielded to the Culasi police with the help of the intelligence operatives of the various units of the Philippine National Police and the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

“He last joined the NPA operations in 2011 but he was listed in the 1990 Order of Battle of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) operating in Antique area,” Malong said in an interview.

In his testimony, he admitted that he was one of those responsible for the harassment of the detachment of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in Brgy. Bitadton, Culasi in 1986, Malong said.

He also figured in an armed encounter with the 47th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in the same barangay sometime in 1996.

While he could not recall the exact date, Lito said he “commandeered a 10-wheeler truck loaded with prime commodities at Brgy. Naba in the same municipality.”

He also turned over a homemade .38 revolver with four live ammunition and 10 live ammunition of .60 caliber machine gun.

The surrenderer, who is now in the custody of Culasi police for custodial debriefing, will be endorsed to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) for him to avail of assistance as he starts to lead a normal life.

Maj. Cenon C. Pancito III, spokesperson of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said the CSP team deployed in Antique last year has ended its assignment after three months.

“We still have left behind forces just to maintain the security within the area," Pancito said.

The CPP-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

Ex-ASG bandits see bright future after surrender

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22. 2021): Ex-ASG bandits see bright future after surrender (By Teofilo Garcia, Jr.)

NEW LIFE. Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, hands over a food pack to an Abu Sayyaf Group surrenderer on Thursday (May 20, 2021) in Talipao, Sulu. Eight former bandits will receive assistance through a localized integration program. (Photo courtesy of JTF Sulu Public Affairs Office)

Sulu native Ibrahim Jul Uppih, 24, joined the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in 2014 for lack of better things to do.

He lost interest in studying when he was 10 years old and in the second grade after his mother died.

He grew up a bum until his cousin enticed him to be a part of the ASG with the promise of a better life and steady income.

“Noong panahon kasi na ‘yun, tambay lang ako. Tapos sabi ng pinsan ko sumama ako sa kanya sa Abu Sayyaf para kumita ng pera. Paminsan-minsan lang naman kami naabutan pero grabe ang paghihirap ko doon (I was a bum that time. My cousin then asked me to join him in the Abu Sayyaf. We were asked to join operations occasionally, we get paid sometimes, but it was really tough there),” he said in the vernacular during an interview.

He remembered being part of three clashes and serving as watchman of kidnap victims.

Uppih and seven other ASG members surrendered Thursday through a localized integration program of the 1101st Infantry Brigade in Sitio Bayog, Barangay Samak, Talipao, Sulu.

The other surrenderers were identified as Padding Padjiri, Abraham Alawara, Adzar Karun, Dansalan Jumadil, Sahadani Murani, Bulli Barri, and a certain Yasser.

They turned over three Garand rifles and two handguns.

Uppih was part of the group of Abduljihad “Idang” Susukan but escaped to Tawi-Tawi sometime in 2016 after sensing that the struggle was senseless.

The police arrested Susukan in the same year in Davao City.

Uppih’s wife joined him in Tawi-Tawi, where they had three children. There, he made ends meet as a banana farmer.

Before his surrender, he constantly lived in fear because he knew the possibility that he may be hunted down by his former colleagues or reported to authorities.

Fortunately, one of his former companions, an alias Darius, was able to contact him and encouraged him to yield to authorities.

Darius is now a member of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit Active Auxiliaries in Sulu.

Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, assured the ASG surrenderers that they will get the assistance they need to become productive members of the society again.

The surrender was facilitated by the 2nd Special Forces, 15th Civil Military Operations, and 100th Infantry Battalions.

Duterte says PH won’t side in US-China tussle: Nikkei report

From the Philippine News Agency (May 22. 2021): Duterte says PH won’t side in US-China tussle: Nikkei report

PCOO photo

President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said the Philippines will not take sides in the ongoing "big power competition" and urged large countries not to pursue dominance to the detriment of smaller ones.

Speaking on the second day of Nikkei's Future of Asia conference, held in Tokyo and online, Duterte also called for global cooperation in the fight against Covid-19, including equitable access to vaccines.

At the same time, Duterte said the pandemic "impelled, if not accelerated, the de-globalization process," resulting in lost trade opportunities for developing nations.

"We are not blind to the geopolitics of diversification and decoupling. However, the Philippines does not see the need to take sides in the ongoing geo-economic competition among big powers," Duterte said in a recorded speech, referring to the United States and China.

Duterte also said disputes must be resolved "peacefully according to international law."

"Great powers must resist the temptation to pursue interests at the expense of smaller countries, in plain defiance of international law," he said. "The pandemic has shown us that zero-sum approaches are self-defeating and ultimately futile. What hurts one ends up hurting everyone else."

Duterte also used the forum to seek investments in his country's agriculture and digital economy sectors, as his administration aims to reverse a record 9.6 percent economic contraction last year.

"We invite more investments to expand e-commerce and new modes of interaction and exchange in a safe and secure cyberspace," Duterte said.

The Philippine leader also trumpeted the newly signed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law, which cuts corporate income taxes to 25 percent from 30 percent.

"The Philippines is ready to be a competitive actor in an open and fair global economy," Duterte said. "Despite the pandemic, opportunities for growth remain."

CHR to probe 1,506 IHL violations by CPP-NPA-NDF

From the Philippine News Agency (May 23. 2021): CHR to probe 1,506 IHL violations by CPP-NPA-NDF

CASES OF WILLFUL KILLINGS. Human Rights Commissioner Karen Dumpit (right) receives from Brig. Gen. Jose Alejandro S. Nacnac, Director of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Center for the Law on Armed Conflict (AFPCLOAC) on May 20, 2021, the report on willful killings committed by the CPP-NPA-NDF from 2010 to 2020. (AFPCLOAC photo)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has vowed to investigate the 1,506 atrocities and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), collectively known as communist terrorist groups (CTGs), from 2010 to 2020.

This, as Brig. Gen. Jose Alejandro S. Nacnac, Director of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Center for the Law on Armed Conflict (AFPCLOAC) on May 20
submitted to CHR Commissioner Karen Dumpit a list of hundreds of willful killings perpetrated by the CTG for the same ten-year period.

“Commissioner Dumpit said they will forward the cases to their regional offices for their investigation. They now have a total of 1,506 cases to investigate. The gathering of other cases are ongoing,” Nacnac said, adding that the recorded CTG atrocities grow by the day.

Nacnac first made public the list of atrocities during the regular press conference of the NTF-ELCAC dubbed as TAGGED: Debunking lies by telling the truth on May 17.

Meanwhile, Makabayan bloc members at the Lower House of Representatives are mum on the AFP report. They have not responded to the Philippine News Agency when sought for comments on May 21, 2021.

Undersecretary Severo Catura, NTF-ELCAC spokesperson on human rights, peace process, and international engagements, said the CTG may be compelled to indemnify victims of their human rights abuses and atrocities in the number of billions of dollars.

Catura, Executive Director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat (PHRCS), said under existing local and international laws, particularly the IHL, parties that are found guilty of such abuses and atrocities committed in a situation of internal armed conflict may be compelled by the courts to indemnify their victims.

Under Section 14 of Republic Act No. 9851, or the "Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity" signed into law on 11 December 2009, Catura said the courts follow the principles relating to reparations, including restitution, compensation, and rehabilitation, and determine the amount of the same based on the scope and extent of damages inflicted.

“However, regardless of the amount that shall be determined and demanded by the courts, it cannot equal the pain and suffering brought about by past and present human rights abuses and atrocities perpetrated by the CTGs,” he added.

“It is high time that they are held accountable for their spate of willful killings, their destruction of government and private property, their use of children as combatants, their internal purges, and their wanton disregard for human rights,” he said.

Both Gen. Nacnac and Catura claimed that they shall likewise refer the matter to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that has ably guided the AFP in the strict observance of IHL in their line of duty. The ICRC is a major partner of the Philippine government in the EO 134 Ad Hoc Committee for the State’s continued observance of IHL, co-chaired by the Department of National Defense and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“Likewise, we shall inform the appropriate United Nations body, through the UN Resident Coordinator and the Senior Human Rights Adviser in the Philippines of this development,” Catura said. He reminded that no less than the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, in its report on the human rights situation in the Philippines, mentioned human rights abuses and atrocities committed by the NPA.

The AFP has consolidated 532 incidents of destruction of civilian-owned properties by the CTGs. An example of which was the attack in Taganito Mining Corporation in Claver, Surigao Del Norte in 2011 resulting in the destruction of the facilities and several pieces of equipment. Another group of rebels attacked the nearby Platinum Metals Group Corp. also in Claver. Three hours later, another mine site operated by another Taganito company, Taganito HPAL Corporation, was also attacked by the rebels.

Recently, a total of 289 incidents of willful killing were consolidated by the AFP-CLOAC. These killing incidents committed by the CTGs during the ten-year period caused the deaths of 77 soldiers and 296 innocent civilians or a total of 373 victims of assassinations.

Besides conducting terrorist attacks, records show that the communist group was responsible for the recruitment of 464 child warriors who were rescued by government troops from their hellish plight.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.